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Part 4: Do I Really Need a ScrumMaster for Agile Marketing?

In the previous posts, I discussed the pro’s and con’s of making your Marketing Owner or a team member also fill the Scrum Master role.  There’s another option but it’s so obvious it didn’t warrant an entire blog post.  If you already have a dedicated project manager in your marketing organization, they can also be a good candidate.  Just think through the pro’s and con’s I explained for the other candidates and apply the same thinking when considering a project manager as your Scrum Master.Physical-Training

In any case, the most important part of their transition is clear:

Get them real training!

For most people, that means going to a Certified Scrum Master (CSM) class.  These are offered frequently just about everywhere nowadays.  One caveat – those training classes use software development for their context, but it’s pretty easy for a marketer to figure out how to apply the lessons to the marketing domain.  This is especially true if you take my Agile Marketing Boot Camp first and then attend CSM training.  While my Boot Camp explains how to use Scrum in marketing, a dedicated CSM class gives additional insights into Scrum and best-practices for Scrum Masters so I still recommend it.

Another way to get training is to use a coach. Many people, myself included, offer coaching services where we work with you to see how you work, identify ways to improve, and give you hands-on assistance in making those changes.

If you’re looking to transition a project manager into the Scrum Master role, you may be tempted to think they don’t need additional training.  However, the Scrum Master role involves a lot more team-building and people-skills than traditional project management roles.  In fact, the most widely recognized certification organization for project managers (PMI) has additional certification requirements for project managers who work with Agile teams.  So they definitely need training too.

Regardless of who you’re getting to transition into the Scrum Master role, keeping these points in mind will help:

  • Scrum Masters are not “bosses” or dictators – they must trust the team to figure out “how” and “how-long” and then hold them accountable.
  • Accountability will probably be the biggest change for all involved.  It’s not about who’s busy or not busy – it’s about doing the things the team committed-to and by the time the team committed-to.
  • Expect a learning curve for all involved.  Relationships need time to change.  And just like everyone else in Scrum, Scrum Masters will improve from sprint to sprint.
  • In my opinion, the best Scrum Masters wield a “velvet hammer”.  They are soft and smooth but everyone knows there’s a steel core with real weight to it just below the surface.

Ultimately, if your initial foray into Agile Marketing is successful, you may want to create additional Scrum teams.  If that happens, you’ll have more than enough work to occupy a full-time Scrum Master.  And in that situation, do you expect to make your part-time Scrum Master fully commit to the Scrum Master role?  I certainly hope you give them that opportunity.  And given the relative infancy of Agile Marketing, chances are it’ll be much easier to find someone to backfill their old marketing role than to find someone with prior experience as a Scrum Master for an Agile Marketing team.  Some food for thought.

Which brings me to my last thought on this thread.  When it comes time to justify an additional headcount for a Scrum Master, there are a couple approaches you may want to consider:

  • The above case is obvious – you make your part-time Scrum Master a full-time one and get headcount to backfill their old role.  You won’t be in this situation unless things are going well and you’re seeing benefits from Agile Marketing so the justification is easy.
  • If you’re trying to get the headcount from the start, then imitate success.  Try talking with other Agile teams in your company – like in your IT or software development organizations.  Find out who handled the headcount requests for Scrum Masters in those organizations and ask them how they did it and whether they’d back your request to management.
  • If you can get a contractor from the start but not a FTE, make sure it’s a contractor who’s open to a contract-to-hire situation.  This can be an option if you’re able to spend your marketing budget on contractors a lot easier than getting incremental FTE headcount (ususally the case).  The contract-to-hire option should be discussed up-front though.  You don’t want to have great initial success and then find your contractor won’t stick around.  Changing the Scrum Master will disrupt the team for at least a few sprints.

That’s it!  Hopefully this series of blog posts has made a decent case for why you need a Scrum Master, ways to share the role (and only as a last resort), and tips for transitioning people into the role and then finally making it a full-time job.

Did you start with someone wearing the Scrum Master hat part-time and eventually make it a full-time role?  I’d love to hear how that journey worked in your situation and I’m sure many others will appreciate it too!

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